The Digital Economy is driving growth Japan. Japan’s telecommunications sector is one of the most developed markets in the world. Japan’s telecoms market is characterised by customers possessing a willingness to adopt new technologies combined with an increasingly sophisticated interest in the wider application of telephone lines. Moving towards 2017 Japan’s market is served by three multi-service operators offering fixed-line telephony, fixed broadband Internet access, mobile voice telephony, mobile broadband Internet access and pay TV services.
Japan’s fixed line market is dominated by incumbent operator NTT. However with a saturated fixed-line telephone subscriber market (on a per household basis), mobile has emerged as the major force in Japan’s telecoms market. The emphasis on mobile has allowed new market entrants to enter and grow in the market despite NTT’s dominance of the fixed market.
Moving into 2016 there were approximately 160 million mobile subscribers in Japan with the majority expected to be accessing services through LTE networks. Japan’s mobile market place remains an aggressive arena given the mature nature of the market. With few new subscriber acquisition opportunities operators are focused on acquiring subscribers from each other as well as satisfying and retaining existing ones.
Data makes up the majority of ARPU although voice remains an important application. Overall ARPU is declining due to competition as well as Over-The-Top (OTT) product substitution for messaging and voice.
Operators are also increasing focus on higher value mobile content and applications to diversify revenue sources away from commoditised access services and also to improve customer retention. A number of operators have been involved in the initial stages of 5G network trials. Mobile content and applications is receiving increased focus as revenue growth from mobile data ARPU is expected to fall due to the mature.
Moving towards 2017 Japan possesses one of the most advanced and largest broadband markets in the world. Much of the success of broadband in Japan is owed to the stunning growth surge that occurred on the back of DSL broadband technology. Since then Japan has focused investment on FttH and on cable to a lesser extent. The faster speeds afforded by these technology platforms has seen both increase in popularity at the expense of DSL, with FttH representing almost two thirds of total fixed broadband subscriptions. Japan has also been an early adopter of triple-play models which provide TV, broadband internet and voice telephony as packaged services from a single provider.
Recognising the potential of applying ICT to improve both social and economic development, Japan has taken steps to develop a digital economy. Businesses, governments and private citizens have been instrumental in creating the online content and services that make up the digital economy.
Japan possesses a vibrant multichannel pay TV industry with services readily accessible across Japan via cable TV (CATV), satellite, IPTV and Over-the-top (OTT) Video-on-Demand (VoD). Total pay TV subscriptions are steadily growing with penetration household penetration levels lower than that of the UK or USA, indicating room for potential growth. What is interesting to note is that although Japan has the necessary physical infrastructure to support OTT VoD, pure OTT players have not found much success as Japanese broadcasters, as the largest Japanese content producers, have traditionally been reluctant to release content to the OTT players believing it will cannibalize advertising revenue.
Continued decline in traditional fixed-line services;
High fibre deployment and accompanying VoIP uptake;
Government policies drive broadband household penetration above 70%;
Continued decline in DSL subscriptions, down to under 10% of the total fixed broadband market;
FttX subscriptions comprise the majority of the fixed broadband market;
Implementation of strong government policies over a decade see over 90% of households with access to FttX;
Japan’s is well positioned to showcase the benefits of e-health given its demography and market characteristics;
OTT VoD struggles to take off;
IPTV emerges as a prevalent pay TV platform on the back of widespread broadband;
SK Telecom and KT Corp, NTT DOCOMO and Verizon formed a 5G Open Trial Specification Alliance;
LTE represents the majority of mobile subscriptions;
Overall ARPU continues to decline despite growing data ARPU;
Operators are focusing CAPEX on LTE, with operators expected to eventually cease investing in 3G;
Increasing LTE speeds are made possible through carrier aggregation technology;
WiFi investments made to alleviate 3G/4G network congestion by offloading traffic.
Companies mentioned in this report:
NTT; KDDI; Softbank Mobile, Internet Initiative Japan, NTT DoCoMo; eAccess, eMobile; Willcom; J:COM; USEN; KDDI; UQ Communications; Hulu; K-Opticom; Tepco, SKY PerfecTV!, Hulu